Skip to main content

Full text of "The Meaning of Social Work"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 

The Meaning of Social Work. 291 


The movement which has brought us together to-day may 
be regarded as a positive stage in the effort of a national mind 
to organize itself. The educational institutions of Wales are 
the envy of the educationist in England. He sees in them the 
realized conception — the living machinery — which focuses 
the life of the people into an intelligence that all may share. 
Such an organized intelligence, a popular mind, supported by 
a duly graded system of schools and colleges, and a University, 
in touch with the life of the people, is an enormous social force. 
Strictly speaking, if it could fulfil its conception by assimilat- 
ing into its own tissue all the wants and impulses of the popu- 
lation, it would be the entire and the only social force. 

It is not surprising that those who are immediately connected 
with the centres of this great social force should to-day be 
turning their attention systematically to social work. It is 
an inevitable movement of the public mind, which may be com- 
pared with what, is constantly happening in private life. Men 
of literary or academic pursuits may be brought by one cause 
or another to devote their attention to the management of a 
household and the social needs and duties of a neighborhood, 
among rich and poor. When this happens they have a two- 
fold experience. They feel, no doubt, that in as far as they 
master the situation, life becomes more interesting, and, so to 
speak, more securely founded, than it was before. They feel 
that they know where they are, in a way which is new to them. 
Their neighborhood and even their household become to them 
a drama of living and human characters, no longer a back- 
ground of mechanical and mysterious agencies. They feel 
themselves at home in the foundations and surroundings of 
their life, instead of floating in the community, as it were, on 
an unknown sea. That is one side of the matter. 

But there is another side to it, and it is this. They find that 
they have a great deal to learn, and a good deal probably 

*An address delivered to the Association of Past Students of the Uni- 
versity College, Cardiff, on January 4, 1901. 

292 International Journal of Ethics. 

to unlearn. They have to train themselves in seeing and feel- 
ing social forces which they have hitherto known, if at all, 
mainly by reading and reflection. They have to understand 
what subtle problems are hidden under the apparently simple 
routine of the peasant's or workman's life. They have to un- 
learn many of their notions as to what influences are good, 
and what are bad, in a neighborhood, and to realize that to 
introduce reforms into a district may need as much hard think- 
ing as to remodel a scientific theory, and much more patience, 
courage and tact. 

It is much the same, on a larger scale, when the national 
mind is roused to apply itself to social work. And it is for 
this reason that I ventured to ask you to-day to consider with 
me the meaning, the significance, or purport, of what is com- 
monly known by that name. 

Of course, work may be social work in a single or in a double 
sense. It may be social in its aim only, as in the case of efforts 
to make the higher literary and scientific education the common 
possession of the people. It was this, I think, that was mainly 
present to Mr. Owen in his presidential address to this associa- 
tion. Again, work may be social not only as aiming at the 
ultimate benefit and elevation of society, but as occupying it- 
self more especially with subjects which concern the structure 
and function of the community, and with the immediate rela- 
tions between the classes of which society is made up. Much 
may be said, very much indeed, in favor of directing the work 
of such an association as your own mainly on the lines which 
Mr. Owen has prefigured. The present address, however, pre- 
supposes that a doubly social work is in some degree before 
the members' minds, and it is intended to explain what the seri- 
ous undertaking of such a work should involve. I shall be 
well contented if thus much only is effected by these sugges- 
tions, that the members of the association become perfectly 
clear in their own minds what course they intend to adopt, and 
by what means they intend to pursue it. I only trust that if 
they propose to deal with social subjects and relations, they 
will count the cost and adopt the highest standard of work. 

In the deepest sense, then, it may be, all work is directly or 

The Meaning of Social Work. 293 

indirectly social; but, important as this truth is, we will not 
dwell on it just now. Social work is to-day commonly inter- 
preted in contrast with industrial or professional work. It is 
what we have spoken of as doubly social work. The "Worker" 
is one thing, and the workman is another. "Women Workers," 
in the title of the National Union of Women Workers, means 
something quite different from "working women." Social 
work is thought of as something spontaneous, human, sociable ; 
an effort to gain direct contact with the human nature of those 
around us. In it we devote to others not our peculiar acquir- 
ed skill, but ourselves, our heart and soul. Perhaps the at- 
tractiveness of social work partly consists in the escape from 
our particular groove, 

"So to be the man, and leave the artist, 
Gain the man's joy, miss the artist's sorrow." 

It involves, indeed, like the return to Nature of which we hear 
so much, a refreshment and reinforcement of our intellectual 
life ; the return to Nature is a great idea, but the return to Man 
is perhaps a greater. We are often reminded how Plato pro- 
posed that philosophers should be kings — i. e., that power to 
influence society should be confined to those who are endowed 
with the true student spirit ; but it is less often brought to our 
notice that the same passage is decisive for excluding from the 
ranks of genuine students all who are indifferent to social work. 

So, then, our doubly social work, however human and spon- 
taneous, dealing however directly with persons and class- 
relations, is not to be set in contrast with the spirit of the true 
student. It too has an aspect of being an art and science; a 
iclear purpose with a reasonable method. There is nothing 
in this against the strength and freshness of human feeling 
which it embodies. We are not to make our social work victim 
of the foolish opposition between heart and head. It is im- 
possible to utter profound and serious feeling except by the 
instrumentality of thorough brain work. A great drama or 
a great piece of music show us both feeling and intelligence 
at their highest pitch, and each of them at a pitch which can be 
attained solely by their fusion, and in no other way whatever. 

Thus we are prepared for the question Plato asks even about 

294 International Journal of Ethics. 

morality, and which he certainly would have asked us about 
Social Work. 

I know what you mean, he says in effect, by the art or science 
of medicine ; it is that which gives appropriate drugs and diet 
to people who are ill; and I know what you mean by the art 
and science of cookery; it is that which applies proper prepa- 
ration to the food we eat ; but now, what, he would ask, what is 
the art or science of social work ; what things or principles does 
it make use of, and to what things or persons does it apply 

Or again he might have extended to it a remark he is fond 
of urging about statesmanship, which ought, I suppose, to be 
social work in its highest form. It is a curious thing, he loves 
to point out — if we may paraphrase him in modern terms — 
that in every other art or science or industry a man who prac- 
tices it can say where he was apprentice or undergraduate, and 
who was his teacher, and when he obtained his degree or passed 
Master of the Art ; but in statesmanship alone of all arts and 
industries there is no such qualification ; no apprenticeship, no 
undergraduate career, no degree and no Mastership of the 
Art. Perhaps this is in spirit not absolutely true of all states- 
manship to-day; but it is still true enough to be exceedingly 
suggestive. And of social work it is terribly true. If we ask 
how many people doing social work have really been trained, 
and how many places there are where they can get any me- 
thodical training, the answer, I think, would make us open 
our eyes. When the reserves or irregular forces of social 
workers have to be called upon for a bit of real extra duty, 
as was the case in connection with the relief funds made neces- 
sary by the war, a most extraordinary spectacle of absolute 
helplessness is revealed. 

Now it seems to me pretty certain that many of those who 
are here to-day will be asking themselves what all this has to 
do with the simple matters in which at present they intend 
to find their social work; workmen's clubs, I have been told, 
perhaps boys' and girls' clubs, and some simple functions in 
'connection with a C. O. S. Surely one may help in an enter- 
tainment, or take part in a club to keep young folks out of the 

The Meaning of Social Work. 295 

streets in the evening, or take round an allowance to an old 
woman, without having, so to speak, passed an examination in 
social objects and methods. Is it not a little pedantic to set 
the standard so high for every social worker? Well, there 
are two things to think of. First, you will always spread 
the spirit which you are of. I don't mean to say you need a 
system of social theory and practice to go and sing a song at 
an entertainment. The smaller your point of contact is the 
less harm you can do and the less good. Though if you come 
to that, I do remember a thorough musician, well skilled him- 
self in managing concerts for the working class, who said to 
me, "When a music-hall artist sings a vulgar song at a music 
hall, we know he has his living to make, and we pardon him ; 
but when a volunteer gives vulgar stuff at a people's concert, 
he does it out of the sheer unnecessary iniquity of his heart, 
and it is ... ." and the sentence ended in strong language. 
But this is an extreme case, no doubt. I only wanted to show 
that really it always matters what sort of thing you do. In the 
general life of a workman's club, however, or in that of a 
boys' and girls' club, the sort of thing you have in your mind 
about the working class must make just all the difference. 
They must see where your heart is and where your hopes lie 
for society; when you come to talk, and, among the young 
folks, to give advice, your ideas must permeate and spread, or 
your want of ideas produce a deadening effect. But in the 
second place you have to remember that things will happen. 
You won't be let alone. You will have to act, to help, to 
manage. Your friends will fall into trouble, perhaps get into 
trouble. Crises and emergencies will arise in their lives, es- 
pecially with respect to the choice of industries for the young, 
or how they are to spend their money. Your club and its in- 
fluence may set them just straight or just crooked for a life- 
time. I need not speak of what C. O. S. work involves ; I shall 
have to recur to that below. 

So far I am only trying to make the point that "social work," 
like everything we do which is to be of any service, demands 
that we shall know our own minds; that we should know 
what we mean by it, and act consistently and with purpose. 

296 International Journal of Ethics. 

Now we will try to come closer, and see what sort of purpose 
is implied in social work. Social workers take many different 
lines, but they mostly come back to these two : they want to 
brighten the lives of the people, or to improve the conditions 
in which they live. If you follow up these clues they will 
bring you to the same centre. Brightening their lives, when 
you work it out, means making them happier; and happiness, 
of course, means the mind or disposition which makes the most 
of life. Improving the conditions in which they live, if you 
work it out, means changing matters in such a way that those 
concerned become able to make more of their lives than they 
did before; and this again means, so that their character may 
be able to master their circumstances. 

The final test and purpose, then, is mind or character. This 
is so, simply because every other test or clue leads you back to 
this one. It is the only point of view which includes every- 
thing in life. This does not mean that circumstances, houses, 
and wages, and such things, are unimportant. But it does mean 
that they are unimportant except in their relation to mind 
and character, and because of this it is only mind and char- 
acter that can either make them contribute to happiness or 
secure them with certainty. I know this sounds like moraliz- 
ing. But it is not spoken in that sense, and it is the conclusion 
to which sociology has slowly and inevitably, and with much 
reluctance, been driven, and which social philosophy has up- 
held from its inception. Every social fact, when you pursue 
it with a view to complete explanation, leads you up to a mind, 
because this is the only central point of view. The official 
statistician tells us that drunkenness has been rising for the 
past five years, and that this "is due to the prosperity of the 
country." Ruskin, in his wildest mood, never said anything 
more humorous. Obviously, we have had so to speak more 
circumstances than our character could control. Again, all 
passenger-traffic returns in France are lower on Fridays. Why ? 
In order to give the answer you must find out why people in 
France dislike traveling on Friday. In this way every fact 
comes alive in your hands, and is unexplained till you have 
referred it to the one centre of life. 

The Meaning of Social Work. 297 

Here, then seems to be the true meaning of social work. 
Wherever it may start, its goal is the same : to bring the social 
mind into order, into harmony with itself. Social disorganiza- 
tion is the outward and visible form of moral and intellectual 
disorganization. This does not involve saying that it can only 
be combated by directly moral and intellectual means; but it 
does involve saying that it can only be combated by means, 
which, all things considered (this is really the important point) 
make for moral and intellectual ends. And it therefore in- 
volves saying that any who undertake to combat social dis- 
organization will certainly increase and not diminish it unless 
they clearly apprehend the moral and intellectual purpose of 
their work, and the relation of the means which they employ 
to this purpose. 

The great question of principle affecting social work, on 
which the social order now reflects the disorganization of the 
social mind, seems to be this : Does our social idea imply the 
perpetuation of dependent poverty, or the extirpation of it? 
In other words, are "The Poor," as a dependent class, as you 
have them in the church offertory, an element of our working 
social conception ? Until we are clear on this point, our social 
work will always be aimless, and therefore a hotbed of abuses. 
We shall never know whether we are working literally for the 
support of poverty, or on the other hand for the improvement 
of the condition of the poor. It is important to realize how 
deep-rooted in the English mind is the notion of a sort of 
tithe or benevolence, a contribution to the sustentation of pov- 
erty, as a good thing in itself ; it is a point in which the social 
mind seems to be wholly at loose ends, or rather to inherit a 
terribly false and powerful tradition, and not in any way to 
be knit up into a purpose or unity. The first thing is then to 
be clear in our own minds what we really want and are work- 
ing for, and further, I would say, to be clear as to the frightful 
evil caused by the mere fact of aimlessness in social work. 

We may illustrate this point, the evils of aimlessness, by 
the confusion which prevail in the out-department system of 
the hospitals in London at the present day. I think it would 
be true to say that no sane man with the facts under his eyes 

298 International Journal of Ethics. 

could purposely give his money to support such a system or 
non-system as that which has grown up, by which the hospital 
staff are overstrained, the patients ill-attended to, and the gen- 
eral practitioners in a fair way to be ruined. Nobody wants 
it who is directly concerned; the hospital doctors don't want 
it, the patients don't want it, the medical profession are largely 
against it. It goes on because the public mind is not on this 
subject in the condition of a plain sane man with a clear 
purpose before him. So far from demanding a better system, 
the public would very probably withdraw support from any 
hospital which should relax in the present system — the sui- 
cidal competition for work which it cannot do and which others 
could live by doing. A similar evil is the true ground of ob- 
jection to raising money by bazaars and entertainments for 
benevolent purposes. The very point of this practice is to get 
people to contribute their money whose interest in the purpose 
to be attained is insufficient to make them contribute. The re- 
sult is that the rational connection between interest and purpose 
is broken; support of an institution ceases to have any con- 
nection with understanding or approval of its aims. Frequent- 
ly, of course, the entertainment is projected for its own sake, 
and an institution is subsequently hunted up to serve as a pre- 
text for it. What is wanted, a true democratic basis of work, 
is the precise contrary of this. It is that the support accorded 
to institutions should be a definite reflection of an intelligent 
interest and purpose entertained by the public mind, so that 
the supporters of an institution should always be pressing it 
towards its right and specific function, as much as the share- 
holders of a company press it to pay a dividend. We only 
want subscribers to care as much for the efficiency of a benevo- 
lent institution as shareholders do for that of a joint-stock 
company; and, in general, that social work shall be managed 
as intelligently as bitsiness or industry. 

Now to grasp the full significance of social work, conceived 
as applying the idea of purpose and character in the sphere 
of our voluntary relations with others, needs a special train- 
ing. And here I must propound a heresy. I cannot think 
that the material for such a training is to be found in economic 

The Meaning of Social Work. 299 

science, as it at present stands, judging by its leading text- 
books, and favorite methods of research. Individual students 
of economics have probably done and discovered more than 
has as yet passed into the body of the science. And I think 
they would probably agree with me, that when we look to 
political economy for a recognition of the central social forces, 
on which the social worker has really and practically to rely, 
we shall find comparatively little to help us. The idea of society 
as an embodied mind and character, on which recent sociology 
lays stress, and which the experience of social workers had 
long previously established, seems to be approached by econo- 
mic science so timidly as to give little guidance to the practical 
man. One might take as a text in this matter the work of 
Chalmers in his Glasgow parish, the memory of which has been 
revived by a recent publication.* I do not know, and I should 
be only too glad to be corrected, that any economist has dis- 
engaged from fallacies and controversies belonging to the time 
the central significance of that wonderful achievement, and 
of the views upon which it was founded. It is true that Chal- 
mers was opposing in Scotland the introduction of a compuls- 
ory poor-rate, and that the existence of such a rate and of the 
Poor Law was even in his time in England a settled system 
of long standing. So the very ground on which he stood may 
seem to be cut away. But this has not much to do with the 
remarkable significance of his work. His central principle was 
in essence that of democracy. I know well, of course, that 
many of his views, reflecting those of his time, could be urged 
on the other side. His principle in social work was, however, 
I repeat, that of democracy. The "sufficiency of the people" 
was his watchword. This is grossly misconstrued if it is taken 
to mean that a respectable man can usually find work and sup- 
port himself. What it meant was rather this : A community 
of the people is a living mind. It has its affections, its duties, 
its obligations, its foresight, its pride and its delicacy — his con- 
stant reiteration of the term delicacy is a striking proof of his 
insight. It has its own innate strength, its own variety, its 
own recuperative power. If you wish to help it to make the 
*Chalmers on Charity; Masterman, Constable & Co. 

300 International Journal of Ethics. 

most of itself, you must understand it, sympathize with it, and 
meet it on the right path. You must not thrust in the iron 
hand of the unskilled social worker, tearing to pieces the deli- 
cate living tissues of filial and parental obligation, of neighborly 
kindness and of the standard of right conduct, foresight and 
honesty. "It was the people who did it," he would reiterate, 
in reference to his administration of the poorest parish in 
Glasgow for four years, through exceptional hardship, without 
a poor-rate, and without external aid. "It was not we who 
did it; it was the people who did it." This seems to me the 
very core of true democracy. The people felt that they were 
understood, and met halfway, and their life put forth its 
strength. Only a democratic church, perhaps, could use Chal- 
mers' method with the fullest effect; but the essence of his 
principle is a permanent gain to the economics of social work ; 
the only serious advance, it might almost be said, since Aris- 
totle. The sufficiency of the people is a social force measurable 
in the crudest way by enormous sums of money. It is measur- 
able also, and most remarkably, by the incredulity of critics 
confronted with the results achieved. An immense financial 
result is attained, for which to the average critic there is 
simply no cause. Their efforts to explain it are amusing. 
"Chalmers," they said, "had private command of large sums 
of money." He answered that he had not a penny beyond the 
small collections whose amount was publicly stated, "the half- 
pence of the poor." "But his deacons were rich men, and gave 
surreptitiously out of their own pockets." Two of them did, 
once or twice, and almost broke down the system by the re- 
sulting disorder. As a rule they were quite poor men, and these 
succeeded best. "Chalmers starved the poor and drove them 
out of the parish." He counted heads, and found the truth to 
be that the poor came into the parish ; the system, in fact, was 
popular. "Chalmers was such a wonderful man." This 
argument made him furious. It was, he thought, as if you 
said that the fact of the circulation of the blood depended upon 
Harvey being such a wonderful man. Anything rather than 
believe that you have hitherto been blind to a simple necessary 
truth! And this controversy is always repeated, in all its 

The Meaning of Social Work. 301 

phases, whenever this simple truth has again been successfully- 
relied on ; notably in the Bradfield case, almost word for word, 
where the question was one of restricting out-relief. This could 
not continue to happen, if recognized teachers and text-books 
really grasped the point that the sufficiency of the people, the 
fabric of mind and character in a coherent society, is an econo- 
mic force of the first order ; and that by ceasing from piece- 
meal interference with it you are not transferring a pecuniary 
burden from stronger to weaker shoulders, but are releasing 
a power of growth which your interference alone has held 

Here, again, is a very simple instance in a small compass 
of the way in which mind and character are central facts, and 
because central facts are in practice unique forces. I allude 
to the case of underfed school children. It is plain that an ill- 
fed child is not fit to be taught in school. It is plain, too, that 
a meal given to an ill-fed child so far makes him better fed. 
And to many, this simple physical relation seems conclusive. 
Food nourishes, nourishment is desirable, therefore feeding 
is desirable. But omitting the probability of malnutrition from 
other causes than lack of food, still a factor is overlooked. 
In dealing with the body of the child you can affect one, two or 
perhaps three meals in the week. But at the same time you are 
doing something else — you are dealing with the mind of the 
parent. Now the mind of the parent is the force to which 
the child must look for all his meals in the week, and all his 
home surroundings and prospects in life. The least relaxa- 
tion in the sense of responsibility in the parent's mind very 
much more than cancels the nourishment given by one or two 
meals a week to the child's body. People start a feeding 
scheme, and then observe to their surprise that there is no 
change to speak of in the children's appearance. And this 
is the explanation. Not with any wicked intention, but natural- 
ly enough accepting the situation, the parents have just slacked 
off at their end of the rope as much as the feeders have tighten- 
ed up at theirs. If you want to do any real good, you must 
go to the parents and find out what is wrong, whether they 
can't or won't feed their child properly ; you must consider the 

302 International Journal of Ethics. 

family life from their point of view, and see if it cannot be put 
upon a better footing. Then you take the strong, central 
point of view, affecting all the child's meals and health and 
prospects, and not merely the bit by bit point of view affecting 
one or two meals a week. This is a very simple instance of 
the two points of view which may be called respectively that 
of circumstance and that of character. Character is a name for 
life as it looks, when you take it as all connected together; 
circumstance is a name for life as it looks when you take it 
just bit by bit. The action of character, compared with that 
of circumstance, is like a process of multiplication compared 
with one of simple addition. It does not deal with different 
things ; that is a mistake of principle ; it deals with the same 
things, but by a complete method, instead of an incomplete one. 

The current economic training, then, it is my heresy to 
suggest, will not take you far in understanding the deeper 
forces with which social work will bring you into contact. 
If so, where are you to get your training? 

In the main, I feel pretty sure, you will have to create it 
for yourselves. It is a magnificent opportunity, worthy of 
a country which has so perfectly organized its educational 
institutions. There is indeed a very inadequate but steadily 
increasing literature of the subject. A central library and 
smaller dispersed libraries of this literature would be a netees- 
sary auxiliary to the training. There are also a few institutions 
where such training is methodically carried on. I could men- 
tion a University settlement and, so far as I know, only one . 
in the world, where a student can be directed in a regular 
course of social work on its various sides and branches, prac- 
tical and theoretical, the theory being such as has grown out 
of practice, and is inseparably interwoven with it. There is 
also, as I am more especially bound to remember, a Committee 
in London which exists for the purpose of providing courses 
of lectures, whether in or out of London, on practice and 
practical theory, with regard to any special type of work, for 
intending social workers. And there are the various Charity 
Organization Societies; your own here in Cardiff, and the 
old Society in London, which is always ready and eager to give 

The Meaning of Social Work. 303 

any help either by advice out of its now lengthening experi- 
ence, or by receiving volunteers to train in its offices, which 
is by far the best practical plan. All these institutions, with 
their literature, their daily practice, or their lectures, would 
be available to you for help and for suggestion. But there is 
no question that to a great extent the educational apparatus 
of the subject has yet to be created, and a generation of compe- 
tent teachers has yet to appear. I do most earnestly hope and 
entreat that if anything should seem paradoxical or uncon- 
vincing in what I have been saying to-day, you will not for 
that reason fail to make trial of the conception that social 
work demands and will repay a special and serious study and 
training. Every special point of view demands a special train- 
ing. Familiarity with certain phenomena apart from a spe- 
cial point of view is useless for the purpose to which that point 
of view refers. For example, it is often maintained that the 
working class know most about the Poor Law, though they 
have the least influence in its administration. But this is not 
true. They have not been led to study the Poor Law as a 
force affecting society as a whole; and apart from such study 
mere contact cannot be said to confer knowledge. Happily, 
moreover, the solid working class does not much rub shoulders 
with the Poor Law. With genuine knowledge they might 
indeed become the completest experts, but that is a question 
for the future. 

A great opportunity is before you. You are here in the 
forefront of popular education; you are also, as all of you 
are no doubt aware, in the forefront of something else. No 
part of England or Wales indeed can compete with my own 
native county of Northumberland in the number of persons 
charged with drunkenness ; but in referring to the latest crimi- 
nal statistics* for another purpose I could not but notice the 
position both in drunkenness and in general crime occupied 
by Monmouth and Glamorgan. I have not the local knowledge 
which would enable me to get behind these figures, which 
might even mean in part the activity of your police ; but what- 
ever reservations may have to be made it seems clear that in 

*For J898, published 1900. 

304 International Journal of Ethics. 

the immediate surrounding district you have very grave evils 
to contend with. To make paler the patches which represent 
these countries on the maps of crime distribution would surely 
be a noble ambition, and ought not to be beyond the influence 
and intelligence of such a body as that which I am addressing. 
Much, for example, is being attempted elsewhere in public 
management of the drink traffic. Could not some well-con- 
trived experiment be initiated here? 

1 have reserved for my conclusion a few words about the 
typical example of what is meant by organization of the social 
mind, in the work of a Charity Organization Society. The 
duty of such a society, as I understand it, is by no means to 
grasp at power, or at exclusive control, but to take a stand 
for definiteness of plan and purpose, and endeavor to promote 
thein throughout all the social work, both public and private, 
of the neighborhood ; to organize, in a word, the mind of the 
district about social work. 

First of all in importance comes the administratior of the 
Poor Law. Unless the Poor Law Guardians are brought to 
adopt an intelligent division of labor with the other social 
workers of the district, the C. O. S. has made, and can make, 
but little progress in its task. The study of Poor Law history, 
experience, and practice, is at the root of all rational organiza- 
tion in the charity of a district. 

Next comes the attitude of the ministers of religion. It 
is a question, I repeat, of ideas and not of interference. Are 
they, whether of their own motion or through the influence of 
the C. O. S., in the habit of dealing with charity from the point 
of view of a definite purpose, and a conception of eradicating 
and not of perpetuating the dependence of the poor? What 
are the parochial charities about, and, if any, the endowed 
charities of the entire district? Has the C. O. S. "charted" 
the district, and formed for itself a definite conception of the 
way in which all its agencies should cooperate for the good 
of the whole ? I may say that for all social workers to "chart" 
the district in this sense is an excellent beginning. Do the 
trustees of charities take the advice of the C. O. S., or act on 
their own motion as if they had taken it? Are old age pen- 

The Meaning of Social Work. 305 

sions, for example, in cases of need which the parties could 
not provide against, organized by contributions of relatives, 
and others who are responsible, supplemented where needful 
from parochial and other charities? Here is the old-age pen- 
sion scheme, unknown to statesmen, but practicable, already 
largely in work, and almost easy. Is the C. O. S. fulfilling its 
true function of utilizing for every case of helpable distress 
the contributions of the persons and institutions primarily 
under obligation, and has it largely banished aimlessness from 
private charity, or is it adding to the disorganization of the 
district by collecting a general relief fund in addition to existing 
agencies ? Has Provident Collecting been started with the view 
of impressing on those, who fall into distress every slack sea- 
son, the possibility and necessity of looking at life somewhat 
more as a whole? Are volunteer workers continually being 
trained in resourcefulness, in thoroughness of work and of 
purpose, and in experience of the true social forces on which 
the social worker has to rely? Do the social workers, visitors 
and philanthropists, all of them know what the life of a first- 
class workman is, and, therefore, what they want the "poor" 
to become? These are a few of the directions in which it is 
the duty of a C. O. S. to promote completeness and definite- 
ruess of purpose throughout the mind of its district. Many 
more will suggest themselves as the work grows and ramifies ; 
for teachers and school managers in particular it can find end- 
less opportunities of usefulness; such as aiding the judgment 
of parents and children with reference to the entrance upon 
industrial life. Study in the shape of reading should go 
hand in hand with the experimental study involved in social 
work, and the leaders of the C. O. S. should always be ready 
to point out a line of reading, as well as to supply practical 
training under experienced workers, with regard to any prov- 
ince of social work which the district calls for ; sanitation, for 

These are imperfect suggestions, made, as was inevitable, 
without that knowledge of the neighborhood which is the foun- 
dation for any sound and definite theory of its possibilities. 
But T hope that in some degree they may have conveyed an idea 

Vol.' XI.— No. 3 21 

306 International Journal of Ethics. 

of the spirit, which, as I believe, should animate all social work, 
or may have contributed to your own reflections some elements 
out of which better suggestions may spring. 

Bernard Bosanquet. 
Oxshott, Surrey, England. 


In the larger and historical present, no more vital question 
is broached than that concerning the ultimate nature of ethical 
ideas ; among English and American thinkers is such especially 
the case. Teutonic thought with all that is meritorious about 
it, has never in its history produced any such wealth of discus- 
sion as that which has grown out of the endeavor among Eng- 
lish-speaking thinkers to adjust the respective claims of Hedo- 
nist and Intuitionist. But this dispute, which has so long been 
current, is to be continued with only meagre satisfaction. The 
student of modern ethics reads the fervent eloquence of a Mar- 
tineau and the judicious logic of a Sidgwick half-wishing that 
such superior efforts might have been expended in some more 
worthy cause than that of combatting theory with theory, of 
adjusting claim to claim. Something more fundamental is 
to-day demanded. The unum necessarium of ethical science is 
some concept whose vitality has not been sapped by mere dis- 
putation. In a theory of value such a principle may perhaps be 

Other sciences than that of ethics have already taken up the 
theory of value. In economics and theology, in popular thought 
and systematic speculation this may be observed. So far as 
economics is concerned, the pertinency of this theory is im- 
mediately apparent, as the practical application of the same is 
specific and technical. But no less vivid is the use made of the 
valuational idea in the Ritschlian theology. Here, it is sys- 
tematically applied, filling the breach made by the extraction 
of speculation from theology. In addition to these particular